Time to get back to normal………12 April 2022
It’s becoming very clear that unless we snap out of negative thoughts about COVID and get back to some normality, the economy is going to remain sluggish in many sectors for longer, negative attitudes about returning to the workplace are likely to become more entrenched; and more people may suffer mental health impacts.
While QR scanning, vaccine passes and many other features of the pandemic may be consigned to history, it appears that the green traffic light won’t be seen until next summer! We need to break out of a negative mindset, while still taking sensible steps to protect ourselves.
For over two years, a large percentage of the workforce has been encouraged by Government and their employers to work remotely. If we’re serious about getting back to normal we need to focus on strategies to reverse that situation and get people back to the workplace.
Despite the digital age and the alternative work methods that have evolved over the last two years, teams need to get back together to re-connect, increase productivity, build organisational culture and lift their general wellbeing.
This is a considerable challenge as there is a wide range of views on the subject. While remote working may have been beneficial for some people, it has not worked for others. Some may be hesitant to return to the workplace in the immediate future because of concerns about the ongoing risk of contracting COVID-19, some can’t wait to get out of the home environment because of multiple parties needing space and access to devices, together with interruptions from home schooling; while others desire to preserve the flexibility that they have found working from home.
There are learnings from other countries that have already experienced the change. The first step on the journey is to set a clear expectation about returning to the workplace, then implementing strategies to encourage people to embrace the change.
That does not mean a total absence of flexibility or remote working – it’s more a question of getting the priority right. This takes care because implementing a hybrid model to slowly transition staff back to the office, may be counter-productive and delay the change.
Some strategies to consider include:
- Establishing the new “Day One” with a specific date for the change.
- Communicating with people about what the plan for a return to the workplace looks like; and ensuring the leaders within the business are touching base with their teams to talk through the plan and address any concerns.
- Communicating the benefits of spending time together, such as quality time for people to connect and collaborate. This will be especially important for new team members, some of whom may never have met face to face since joining the organisation, to gain knowledge from more experienced team members and assimilate the real culture of the organisation.
- Holding a ‘welcome back’ function, with a range of follow up activities, to make getting together fun again.
- Consulting about what level of flexibility is acceptable moving forward to manage expectations, especially for those employees who have enjoyed working from home and been fully productive.
- Monitoring engagement and wellbeing, to understand the effects the pandemic has had on people and implementing plans to lift wellbeing and mental health within the organisation.
There has been a lot of uncertainty for everyone, for a significant period of time. Now is the time to get back to normal, because arguably that is in the best interests of the wider economy, your organisation and the health, wealth and wellbeing of your people.
If you require further information please contact – Tony 021 920 323, Justine 021 920 410, or Michelle 021 993 735.